Wind-powered cargo ship sets off on maiden voyage, paving the way for eco-friendly shipping

A revolutionary cargo ship equipped with tall “wing sails” has set sail on its maiden voyage, marking a potential breakthrough in wind-powered ocean transportation. The Pyxis Ocean vessel, chartered by shipping company Cargill, will sail from China to Brazil to test the efficiency and effectiveness of two rigid ‘wind wings’. These massive sails, about 125 feet tall, are made of the same material as wind turbines and could potentially reduce emissions by 30 percent over the life of the ship.

Pyxis Ocean’s windfoils were designed to save 1.5 tons of fuel per wing per day, it was announced Aug. 21. Combined with alternative fuel sources, that figure could increase significantly. Sails will be closely monitored throughout the vessel’s six-week voyage with the aim of introducing the technology across Cargill’s fleet and the shipping industry as a whole. One project participant estimates that a vessel equipped with four WindWings could save up to 20 tons of CO2 emissions every day.

John Cooper, CEO of BAR Technologies, the company involved in the project, emphasized the potential of wind power as a fuel source with virtually zero cost and emissions. He explained that reducing emissions and increasing ship operating costs by harnessing wind power could lead to significant efficiency gains.

In addition, wind power is a renewable and predictable resource, making it attractive to an industry that accounts for about 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, equivalent to about 837 million tons per year. Currently, less than 100 cargo ships utilize wind energy technology, a small fraction compared to the more than 110,000 active ships worldwide. The success of the Pyxis Ocean project could encourage greater adoption of green retrofits on existing ships and the installation of wind energy systems on new ships.

Similar wind energy projects are already underway in the maritime industry. Swedish company Oceanbird is building 40m-high, 200-tonne sails to retrofit the 14-year-old car carrier Wallenius Tirranna. According to Offshore Energy, each sail on an Oceanbird vessel can reduce emissions by 10%, saving about 675,000 liters of diesel fuel annually.

Jan Bieleman, president of Cargill’s offshore division, acknowledged that decarbonizing the offshore industry is a challenging but exciting journey. The development of wind-powered ships is a promising solution to reduce emissions and move towards a greener future for the shipping industry.

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